EDISON, NJ – The inaugural New Jersey Pakistan Independence Day Parade spanned Oak Tree Road in Edison, the epicenter of South Asian culture in United States, on Sunday.
"The day was very exciting especially it being the Inaugural Pakistan Independence Day Parade in NJ,” Azra Baig, South Brunswick Board of Education Member said. “We are fortunate to have one of the largest number of Pakistanis in NJ especially in Middlesex County.”
Official estimates place the attendance at more than 7,000. The parade started in Edison and finished in Iselin, ending in a Pakistani cultural festival and musical concert. The event, which was organized by the Pakistan Parade Committee of New Jersey, attracted Pakistani-Americans from across the state as well as from New York City, Long Island, and Philadelphia.
"It is so great to be living in a country where we can freely celebrate our rich and diverse heritage and share it with our neighbors and with New Jerseyans in general", Sam Khan, president of the parade committee added.
The first parade of its kind in New Jersey, the celebration included 13 floats, Bhangra dancers, Dhol music, and a 100-person marching band. Muslim Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America troops walked alongside groups representing some of Pakistan's diverse religions, including Pakistani-Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus. In addition to several local Pakistani organizations and businesses, JFK Hospital, Carepoint, and the Overseas Commission of Pakistan all had floats.
“Many wore green and white of Pakistan's national colors and waved Pakistani and American flags,” Baig added. “Parade participants chanted "Pakistan Zindabad" (meaning long live Pakistan). The celebration also included many musical performances from various Pakistani artists and youth from the Pakistani-American community.”
The cultural music festival was headlined by five acclaimed Pakistani pop stars who entertained the crowd with musical performances: Fariha Pervez, Raheem Shah, Komal Malik, Waqas Ali, and Haider Afzal. They were joined by local talent including Pakistani-American rappers. Other local Pakistani-American businesses helped put on an ethnic dress show as well as cultural dances.
Also present were elected officials from around the state, led by Ediosn Mayors Thomas Lankey and Mayor John McCormac of Woodbridge. Other notable attendees included State Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Peter Barnes, Senator Sam Thompson, Assemblypersons Nancy Pinkin and Upendra Chivukula, and Middlesex County Freeholders Charlie Tomaro, Ken Armwood, and Charlie Kenney.
"I am especially proud of all the different religious groups that helped make this event a success. Pakistanis are not a monolithic people, and the Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews from Pakistan here today exemplify that", Dr. Mohammad Zubair, chairman of the Pakistan Parade Committee said. "We are especially thankful to the support that Edison Mayor Lankey, Woodbridge Mayor McCormac and Freeholder Tomaro provided to help make this parade happen and the advice and guidance from our Indian friends who helped organize their own successful parade last weekend was crucial. We look forward to working with all of them moving forward."
“This inaugural NJ parade was more successful than anyone could have hoped for. New Jersey already has a huge Pakistani-American population and we're one of the fastest-growing demographics in the region, so this event is only going to get bigger and better,” Tauqeer Haq, the committee's vice president commented. “I'm already looking forward to next year, so we can enjoy even more great music, great culture, and most importantly, tons of delicious Pakistani food."
“Much appreciation to all the organizers, volunteers, sponsors and event attendees who helped make this Pakistan Independence Day a truly memorable event and look forward to this event annually, " Baig concluded.